By ANGELA BRANDT
After ample practice last year, Kaye Schloss has perfected her puppy-dog eyes. She uses them keenly to solicit more donations for the Arley Burt Pet Cemetery.
“I give them the sad look and say, ‘I need,’” Schloss explained.
The response has been overwhelming. Local businesses, including Helena Sand and Gravel, Power Townsend and Home Depot, stepped up by donating dirt, trees and rocks, among other items.
“It’s so refreshing to know they helped again this year. And I’ll hit them up next year,” said Schloss, who headed a much-needed renovation of the cemetery in 2011.
When Schloss, 71, became involved, she did not even have any animals buried in the place but she was heartbroken to think of pets being exhumed and cremated. She now has six of her dogs’ ashes placed in the cemetery.
Schloss in 2010 heard about construction in the area that might have resulted with the cemetery being dug up and closed. She took quick action to remedy the situation.
The main issue was the worn cemetery was an eyesore with unkempt graves and overgrown weeds. Schloss enlisted the help of a few friends and other volunteers to clean up the plots and make it place pet owners would be proud of again.
Schloss had the moxie and the vision to make it all happen, said Liz Harrison, director of development and community outreach for the Lewis and Clark Humane Society, which is tasked with maintaining the graveyard.
“One woman said, ‘This is not OK and I’m going to fix it.’ And then the community said, ‘This is not OK and we’re going to help you fix it,’” Harrison said.
Last spring and summer, she and friends Barbara Chapman and Erma Polich, in their 70s and 80s, spent day after day at the cemetery, pulling weeds, cutting branches, leveling the ground and painstakingly creating the square wooden grave toppers.
The cemetery, closed to new burials since 1993, has done such a turnaround that Schloss hopes to open it to small graves for pets’ ashes. It is home to the remains of more than 200 animals, including cats and dogs, and at least one rabbit and a mallard duck.
This year, Schloss has the assistance of Glen Mainard, who helps with the markers and weeding. Mainard’s family buried two pets in the cemetery in the 1980s. The cemetery opened in the 1960s.
“It looks really good out here now,” Mainard said.
Schloss has a growing thank-you list. A more recent addition to the names is Schellinger Construction, the company that redid the Custer Interchange. Schellinger not only improved access to the cemetery but also donated manpower to assist the cemetery’s renovation, she said.
Schloss has garnered many peoples’ appreciation as well. She plans on making a scrapbook of all her cards and postcards from the community.
“I get a lot of calls. I love every one of them,” said Schloss, who can be contacted at 227-5114.
She doesn’t plan on ending her volunteering at the cemetery anytime soon. Schloss is currently looking for donated birdhouses and wind chimes to hang along the fences.
“I’ll be out here until the day I die. I just have to find someone to fill in when I go,” she added.
Reporter Angela Brandt:
447-4078 or angela.